Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. I would like to take the Colleges exams, what format do they take?
The College awards a Fellowship, Membership or Diploma in Ophthalmology by examination (FRCOphth, MRCOphth or DRCOphth respectively). Which examination path is most suitable for you will depend on your experience and training objectives.
The current Fellowship examination structure was introduced in 2006. In order to obtain FRCOphth, candidates must pass the Part 1 FRCOphth, Refraction Certificate and the Part 2 FRCOphth examinations.
MRCOphth is awarded to candidates who have passed both the Diploma (DRCOphth) and Refraction Certificate examinations.
The Diploma in Ophthalmology (DRCOphth) is awarded to candidates who have passed the Diploma examination.
2. I am a doctor practising overseas, can I sit the College’s examinations or do I need to have completed a period of training in the UK?
Eligibility to sit the College’s examinations is not restricted to UK trainees. There is no minimum training requirement to sit the College exams. However, candidates are unlikely to pass the Refraction Certificate without extensive practise and experience of refracting patients. It is also recommended that candidates have completed a minimum of 4 years of ophthalmology training before sitting the Part 2 FRCOphth examination. Success in these exams will NOT allow you automatically to apply for places in UK ophthalmic specialist training posts.
3. Would you be able to advise me on the format of the Part 1 FRCOphth, Refraction Certificate and Part 2 FRCOphth exams?
The Part 1 FRCOphth examination assesses understanding of patient investigations and knowledge of basic and clinical sciences relevant to ophthalmology. This is examined by a 3 hour Multiple Choice Question paper (MCQ) (1 best correct answer from 4) of 120 questions, and a 2 hour Constructed Response Question (CRQ) paper of 12 questions. Further details are available in the Part 1 FRCOphth Application Pack available on the Application Packs Page
The Refraction Certificate consists of a 12 station Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). Further details are available in the Candidates' Information Pack available on the Application Packs Page.
The Part 2 FRCOphth examination consists of three assessment formats:
Written Papers (single best answer multiple choice),
Structured Viva and
Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE)
The Part 2 FRCOphth examination is a synoptic examination that covers all areas of RCOphth Ophthalmic Specialist Training (OST) Curriculum. Those areas of the curriculum where workplace based assessment has been used as continuous assessment throughout training are less likely to feature in the written parts of the examination but may be assessed in the structured viva and objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE). Further details are available in the Candidates' Information Pack available on the Application Packs Page.
4. I am a new trainee and just about to start year 1 of specialty training (ST1). Do I need to pass my examinations by a certain point in training?
Part 1 FRCOphth
No previous experience in ophthalmology will be necessary for candidates to sit the Part 1 FRCOphth but trainees will be required to pass this examination before they enter into the third year of ophthalmic specialist training.
No previous experience in ophthalmology will be necessary for candidates to sit the Refraction Certificate but candidates are unlikely to pass this assessment if they have not undertaken a large number of clinical refractions in the clinical settings of either the hospital workplace or in optometric establishments. Trainees in OST will be required to pass this examination before they enter into the fourth year of ophthalmic specialist training.
Part 2 FRCOphth
This examination will be open to candidates who have passed the Part 1 FRCOphth and the Refraction Certificate (or Parts 2 or 3 MRCOphth/MRCSEd) and is an exit level assessment. There is no specific training requirement but candidates are unlikely to successfully complete this examination without a significant period of training in ophthalmology.
For candidates in OST, success in this examination reflects an ophthalmologist who is suitable for recommendation for a CCT when taken with other evidence, such as completion of training (RITA G/ARCP 6). It is therefore taken towards the end of training and trainees are required to pass this examination by the end of year seven of ophthalmic specialist training. If these deadlines are not met then it will not be possible to progress with training and the individual will, almost certainly, leave the training programme.
The Part 2 FRCOphth must be passed before the General Medical Council will award a CCT. In order to be considered for a CCT, the exam must be passed while still in a training post and candidates should not leave training or give up a training number before passing the exam. If the exam is passed when not in a recognised training post, the candidate must apply for a Certificate of Equivalence for the Specialist Register (CESR), under Article 14.
5. What happens if I do not pass an exam within the specified time of my training programme – eg Part 1 FRCOphth by the end of year 2?
If a trainee does not pass an examination within the required time frame, it will be a matter for the local Deanery and ARCP panel to determine whether it is appropriate to offer the trainee additional training time, and a further re-sit, before progression through specialty training can proceed. In some cases, this may unfortunately mean the trainee being counselled out of the specialty.
6. Is there a limit of the number of times I can sit each exam?
From 1 August 2013, candidates will be permitted a maximum of six attempts in which to pass each examination. Examination attempts prior to August 2013 will not be included when the new ruling is introduced. Candidates who are eligible to sit either the Fellowship Assessment or the Part 2 FRCOphth examination will be permitted six attempts in total (not twelve) in which to pass an exit level examination.
7. If I pass College examinations outside a training post, can these then be counted towards the requirements for my CCT? Regarding the GMC statement on taking exams whilst in a "training post", does this include being on an OOPE?
The General Medical Council (GMC) require that all examinations are taken while the candidate is in a recognised training post if the candidate wishes to apply for a CCT, otherwise, the CESR route should be followed.
The GMC advise that ‘examinations taken while a candidate is in a recognised training’ include:
i) while doctors are in approved specialty, including GP training, (core, higher or run through), LAT (locum appointments for training) or FTSTA (fixed term specialty training appointments).
ii) while doctors are on approved breaks from training, whilst retaining their training number, such as maternity leave or approved out of programme experience.
iii) while doctors are in UK GMC approved Foundation Programme
iv) before doctors enter approved specialty, including GP, training if that training commences on or before 31 October 2013.
Please see http://www.gmc-uk.org/education/postgraduate/9813.asp for further information.
With regard to being on an OOPE, a training post is considered to be a post that has been approved by the GMC for training. In order for this post to be valid for YOUR training then you must have approval from the College and Deanery to undertake this as part of your training. Some OOPEs may not fulfil these criteria eg post CCT Fellowships, research OOPEs, educational OOPEs – and it is important that you ensure that you have confirmed that when you apply for a post that you confirm that it is a valid training post recognised for YOUR training. This also applies to those who are in a LAT post. Applications for training approval must be prospective.
8. Does success in the exams exempt me from any work-based assessments?
No, the assessment system for those in OST is mapped to the curriculum and this consists of both WpBAs and examinations which complement each other.
9. I have just completed a medical course at university and start work as an F1 pre-registration house officer soon. Although my career plans may change I have an interest in ophthalmology. When should I take Part 1 FRCOphth? Will completion of the Part 1 FRCOphth be required in order to enter Specialty Training in Ophthalmology? I do not know whether to consider sitting the examination near the end of my F2 year or to wait until after completion of the Foundation Programme.
The Part 1 FRCOphth can be taken at any time following registration (i.e. after completion of your F1 year), but sitting this examination at such an early stage is inadvisable. You will have a large number of generic competencies to get through in your Foundation Years and you are advised to concentrate on these skills and wait until you are in OST until you attempt any College exams.
10. I am an ophthalmic specialist trainee, can I choose to sit the Fellowship Assessment?
Eligibility to sit the Fellowship Assessment is limited and governed by the academic year in which you began your substantive training post. Trainees recruited in the following years are not eligible to sit the Fellowship Assessment and are required to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth examination:
• OST 1 – recruited in 2007 and beyond
• OST 2 – recruited in 2008 and beyond
• OST 3 – recruited in 2009 and beyond and so forth.
Trainees recruited to years higher than those listed above, or were recruited as Specialist Registrars (SpR) continue to be eligible to sit the Fellowship Assessment, if desired. This means that trainees who have taken time out of programme or trained on a less than full time basis, and therefore remain in training longer than the majority, will still be eligible to sit the Fellowship Assessment. The Fellowship Assessment will be withdrawn by the end of 2016, irrespective of the status of any remaining trainees.
11. I am eligible to sit the Fellowship Assessment but am thinking of sitting the Part 2 FRCOphth. If I am unsuccessful at the Part 2 FRCOphth, can I then still apply to sit the Fellowship Assessment?
Technically, you can sit both exams. If you choose to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth examination but are unsuccessful, you may then still enter to sit the Fellowship Assessment, and vice versa. However, collecting and writing up cases for the Fellowship Assessment needs to be done throughout training and it is not possible to do this and an audit at short notice. Candidates eligible to sit the Fellowship Assessment are therefore advised to decide which route they wish to follow as early as possible. Please also note that from 1 August 2013, candidates will be permitted a maximum of six attempts for each examination. Candidates eligible to sit either the Fellowship Assessment or the Part 2 FRCOphth examination will be permitted six attempts in total (not twelve) in which to pass an exit level examination.
12. Do I have to wait until I have obtained my third RITA C/ARCP 5 before I am able to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth?
No. However, candidates are reminded that the Part 2 FRCOphth is an exit level assessment and candidates are unlikely to successfully complete this examination without a significant period of training in ophthalmology.
13. I am in a LAT post at the moment, what routes to Fellowship (FRCOphth) are open to me?
The Fellowship Assessment was designed as an exit assessment for the old curriculum for Higher Specialist Training (HST). It is therefore an eligibility requirement that UK based candidates are in a substantive training post and hold a National Training Number (NTN). Candidates who have completed no more than one year's LAT post before securing a substantive training post may collect up to two cases during this time. Doctors who do not hold a substantive training post, but have successfully passed the Part 1 FRCOphth and Refraction Certificate or the Part 1 and 2 (and 3) MRCOphth, remain eligible to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth as a route to obtaining Fellowship of the College.
14. I am a specialty doctor wanting to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR) via Article 14. Can I sit the FRCOphth Part 2? And will this help my application?
In order to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth you must have passed Part 1 FRCOphth and the Refraction Certificate (or Parts 1 & 2 MRCOphth prior to November 2008 or the Parts 1 & 2 MRCSEd exams prior to August 2008). If you fulfil these criteria then you are allowed to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth from a specialty doctor post. This will provide valuable evidence of competency which will count towards your Article 14 application.
15. If the Part 1 FRCOphth examines optics and refraction, why is there a requirement to obtain the Refraction Certificate?
The Part 1 FRCOphth contains theoretical optics questions; there is no assessment of clinical skills. You will have to pass the Refraction Certificate, in addition to Part 1 FRCOphth, in order to progress to Part 2 FRCOphth.
16. When did the Royal College of Ophthalmologists cease running the old style MRCOphth examinations and start the new style FRCOphth examinations
The last Part 1 MRCOphth was sat in October 2006, the last Part 2 MRCOphth was held in November 2008 and the last Part 3 MRCOphth was held in September 2008.
The new Part 1 FRCOphth commenced in October 2006. The Refraction Certificate commenced in July 2007 and the first Part 2 FRCOphth was held in October 2008.
17. I have passed the Part 2 MRCOphth, which examinations can I now take?
You are eligible to enter the Part 2 FRCOphth examination as a route to obtaining Fellowship (FRCOphth) of the College. In addition to your Part 2 MRCOphth success, if you were to pass the Diploma examination (DRCOphth), you would be eligible to apply for Membership of the College (MRCOphth).
18. I passed the Part 1 MRCOphth exam. Can I sit the Refraction Certificate exam?
Candidates who had passed the Part 1 MRCOphth examination could sit the Part 2 MRCOphth until November 2008. Candidates who did not successfully complete the Part 2 MRCOphth are now required to follow the new examination structure, starting with the Part 1 FRCOphth. The Refraction Certificate is a “stand alone” examination that candidates may sit to demonstrate their skills in refraction. It may also be taken along side the Diploma examination in order to gain the post nominals MRCOphth.
19. Previously, obtaining the MRCOphth meant that one was eligible for HST. What does obtaining the Part 2 FRCOphth mean now? Will I be eligible to continue training? Am I considered a Registrar, or can I practise independently as an Associate Specialist or a sub-consultant?
The new FRCOphth qualification is an exit assessment. This will allow the holder to apply for a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) if he or she has, in addition, completed all the other training objectives within Ophthalmic Specialist Training and achieved satisfactory Annual Review of Competence Progression/ARCP (successor to RITA).
All trainees in OST will, subject to obtaining the satisfactory requirements, be eligible to apply to become consultants.
20. Following the implementation of the new examination system is the MRCOphth equivalent to FRCOphth? And if not, where does the MRCOphth stand?
The Part 2 FRCOphth is an exit level qualification for Ophthalmic Specialist Training and as such assesses knowledge and competencies at a high level. It is recommended that candidates have completed a minimum of 4 years training in ophthalmology before sitting this examination (whereas candidates for the Part 3 MRCOphth needed to have completed 18 months).
These are therefore not equivalent examinations of ophthalmic knowledge. However, the assessment of clinical skills in the both OSCEs assesses the ability of candidates to reliably elicit clinical signs at a competent level Candidates who have obtained the Part 3 MRCOphth, wishing to obtain Fellowship, can either undertake the Fellowship Assessment (casebooks) if appointed to an SpR post or to ST2 or above in 2007, ST3 or above in 2008, all other StRs must sit the Part 2 FRCOphth examination.
21. If I have completed the MRCOphth will I have to sit any more assessments?
If you have completed the MRCOphth and do not wish to obtain any further qualifications then "no" you do not need to sit any further examinations. If you wish to obtain Fellowship of the College you will need to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth examination. Eligible candidates may opt to sit the Fellowship Assessment. Please see FAQ no. 10 for eligibility criteria.
22. I have MRCOphth but I am not currently employed as I am still trying to get a number after being a LAT. Am I now required to complete another examination?
Your MRCOphth will continue to allow you to enter Ophthalmic Specialist Training at an appropriate level (usually year 3, depending on the competencies you have obtained). You will be required to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth examination if you wish to become a Fellow of the College.
23. I have passed the International Council of Ophthalmology examinations. Am I exempt from any part of the FRCOphth examinations?
The College does not offer exemptions to candidates who hold ICO examinations.
24. I am a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, am I eligible to sit the Part 2 FRCOphth examination?
The College does not offer exemptions to candidates who hold FRCS (Glasgow). In order to obtain FRCOphth, you must pass all the College’s Fellowship examinations (Part 1 FRCOphth, the Refraction Certificate and the Part 2 FRCOphth).
25. I possess examinations or qualifications from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, am I eligible to sit College examinations?
From August 2007, all UK trainees wishing to train in ophthalmology follow the OST curriculum of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists which is assessed by the use of workplace based assessments and examinations. The only examinations used by UK trainees following the OST curriculum are those offered by the RCOphth. As a consequence of this, there are some trainees who have already acquired some qualifications and passed examinations from the RCSEd who may be compromised as regards gaining further qualifications. This is because there was previously no reciprocity offered to trainees from the RCOphth who have passed RCSEd examinations.
In order not to jeopardise those trainees who already possess examinations and qualifications from the RCSEd it has been agreed that the RCOphth offer temporary reciprocity as outlined below:
- Those trainees who possess the full MRCSEd (Ophthalmology) obtained prior to August 2008 be treated in the same way as those trainees who have the full MRCOphth and are therefore allowed to sit the new Part 2 FRCOphth or to take the old Fellowship Assessment (subject to the eligibility criteria detailed in FAQ no.10, above). Success in either of these examinations will allow them to use the post-nominals FRCOphth.
- Those trainees who passed the Part 2 MRCSEd prior to August 2008 be treated in the same way as those trainees who have the Part 2 MRCOphth and be allowed to sit the new Part 2 FRCOphth examination, success in which will lead to the post-nominals FRCOphth.
- Those trainees who passed the Part 1 MRCSEd prior to August 2008 be treated in the same way as those trainees who have the Part 1 MRCOphth and they must sit the new Part 1 FRCOphth, the new Refraction Certificate and the Part 2 FRCOphth, success in which will lead to the post-nominals FRCOphth.
These transition arrangements will last until the final trainees with RCSEd qualifications have passed through the system. Only MRCSEd examinations passed prior to August 2008 are accepted for reciprocity. Any RCSEd examination taken after this date is not recognised for reciprocity for RCOphth examinations.
26. What is the Diploma Examination in Ophthalmology (DRCOphth)?
The Diploma examination assesses a candidate’s basic knowledge, clinical skills and understanding of ophthalmology. The examination consists of
• A 3 hour Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) paper of 120, single best item stem, questions relating to basic sciences and theoretical optics
• A 2 hour Constructed Response Question (CRQ) paper of 12 questions
• A Structured Viva consisting of five stations
• A Multi Station Clinical examination (OSCE) consisting of a series of 7 stations.
Further details are available in the Candidates' Information Pack available on the Application Packs Page. Passing this exam and the refraction certificate permits you to apply for membership of the College (MRCOphth).
27. What should I bring to the exams?
You must bring photographic identification for verification to all College examinations.
Candidates may bring their own clinical equipment to an examination, if desired, however all items must be contained within a clear plastic pencil case or plastic bag.
28. Can I use my own pencil / pen during the written exams?
All written examinations must be completed with a HB pencil, including CRQ papers. Pencils are provided on each desk and these must be used to complete the answer sheets. Pens are not permitted as this affects the scanning of the answer sheets.
If you have any further queries please email: Emily.Beet@rcophth.ac.uk